Jewish food is only part of the story at Snyder's

Owings Mills cafe is family-friendly if not kosher

Eats: Dining Reviews, Hot stuff

September 02, 2004|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Snyder's Cafe and Deli has been serving Jewish comfort food from its location in the massive Valley Center strip mall for nine years now.

The lengthy menu features such Jewish favorites as noodle kugel, brisket, knishes and bagels. But Snyder's, owned by brothers Howard and Brian Snyder, is not a kosher restaurant. It serves shellfish, forbidden in kosher diets, in many forms, including Maryland crab soup and fried shrimp.

The shrimp salad sandwich, in particular, is divine, made from large shrimp that are chopped into bite-sized chunks, bound with mayonnaise and seasoned with Old Bay. It comes on a Kaiser roll with lettuce and slices of tomato.

The menu also mixes dairy products and meat, another kosher no-no, in dishes like a cheese steak and a cheeseburger. Pork can be found in the baby back ribs and in the bacon offered on some sandwiches.

Snyder's also serves waffles, omelettes, blintzes and other breakfast foods all day, as well as Morty's Chicken, a fried chicken franchise once located on Liberty Road. The Snyders purchased the business about five years ago and now sell the trademarked chicken and fries from their restaurant and deli.

Dinners come with two sides, plus soup or salad, and the sensibility is both Jewish and soothing. Think bread pudding, mashed potatoes, applesauce.

A cup of matzo ball soup is crowded by a matzo ball the size of a fist, a feather-light triumph that almost dissolves on your tongue. Also in the bowl are fat, tender slices of carrots and celery. There's hardly any space for the broth, but what's there is salty and delicious. According to Howard Snyder, the recipe is from his grandmother.

Latkes the size of flattened baseballs are crisp on the outside and tender within. Since these potato pancakes are fried in oil, they are always in danger of being too greasy. The ones at Snyder's escape that fate, but narrowly.

Noodle kugel, a sweet, baked noodle dish made with ricotta cheese and fruit, is served as a wedge, crusty brown on the top and moist inside.

A corned beef platter featured a generous amount of lean meat, topped with an apricot glaze. That seemed somewhat unusual, but the sweetness and moisture of the fruit nicely complemented the meat, which was veering dangerously toward dryness.

The kosher hot dogs, split lengthwise and grilled in butter, delivered a satisfying, juicy snap with each garlicky bite. They came on another substantial roll and were served with potato chips and a dill pickle spear, a fat wedge that actually tasted of cucumber.

Desserts, displayed in a glass case, included high-rise versions of chocolate layer cake and coconut cake, as well as rainbow cake, featuring layers of sweet cake - blue, red, yellow, green - held together with jam, the whole thing iced in rich chocolate. Cheesecake was the real deal, dense and a little sour, with a graham cracker crust. The chocolate eclair was a satisfying combination of fudgy exterior, pastry shell and sweet cream filling.

The service was generally fine but sometimes not as attentive as we would have liked. Drinks could have been refilled more frequently, for example, and our dessert order taken sooner.

The restaurant, which has both booths and tables, is remarkably kid-friendly. Children get a bag of stickers when they sit down. The kid menu, printed with little puzzles and games, includes pizza bagels, macaroni and cheese and chicken fingers.

The deli is to the left of the entrance, and the restaurant, which is to the right, is clean and somewhat sterile in appearance, with gray carpet and posters of movie stars as decoration. Television sets are suspended from the ceiling. Some are tuned to closed-caption news, and others show cartoons. This isn't fine dining - it's family dining. And it's not just for Jewish people.

Snyder's Cafe and Deli

Where: 9616 Reisterstown Road, Owings Mills

Call: 410-581-2999

Open: daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Credit cards: All major cards

Prices: Appetizers $2.25-$7.99, entrees $4.99-$17.99

Food: ***

Service: **1/2

Atmosphere: **1/2

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